Hello faithful (and perhaps some unfaithful) readers. I can't apologize for my absence, so I won't.
But I will say that I haven't stopped listening to music in the weeks gone by, so there will be many more reviews to come. I went through a whole bunch of 80's hip hop (MC Hammer, Run-DMC, Jazzy Jeff/Fresh Prince), indie stuff, rare stuff, new pop releases, world music...everything. So check back soon. And enjoy!! :D
Various Artists "Sing Me to Sleep: Indie Lullabies"
An interesting compilation of some "children's music" (some not) portrayed as lullabies, recorded by bands to indie for you to know. What this boils down to is a pot luck dinner of relaxing lo-fi. Some songs I recognize as the Beatles' "Dear Prudence," the Frank Loesser tune "Inchworm" featured on the Muppet Show and Sesame Street among other children's shows, and "Pure Imagination," the soundtrack to the chocolate room in the original Willy Wonka film. But these are not straight ahead, easy listening tunes entirely; many of the songs have been reimagined in terms of structure, instrumentation, brand new sections created by expounding upon familiar sections. If you're not a hipster with a kid, you should still give this record a listen if you are a fan of discovering new lo-fi, would get a kick out of psychedelic reworkings of children's songs you may or may not remember, or are just open to anything.
Phil Collins "Face Value"
This 1981 record is kind of a grab bag of styles: dramatic ballad, white boy funk, dramatic ballad, grooves with African & Latin vibes, and did I mentioned overly dramatic ballads? This album doesn't suffer so much from the 80's factor but its timeless melodrama and cheesiness. Great music for introducing guests on a daytime talk show. Of course, what must be mentioned is the first track, which you already know. An unusual and slow drum machine beat creeps in followed by mellow synths and Collins' chorused/echoed vocal. You wait for 3'40" and then the most famous drum fill of the 1980's comes out of nowhere, brings you into the chorus, and now the song is on a whole new level. Get "In the Air Tonight" on iTunes and leave this album alone.
Phil Collins "No Jacket Required"
This record has way more 80's factor running through its veins than the previous selection, and yet I can stomach way more of these tracks than those from Face Value. Why? I think they're just better written songs. Still got some of that white boy funk here, like in "Who Said I Would," and he even borrows Frampton's talk box to amp up the epic whiteness. The tunes are just more catchy as well, which is why, without looking it up for factual accuracy, I'm going to guess this album sold a lot better than Face Value. The only song too melodramatic for me is "One More Night" but I'm sure your older sibling slow danced to it at some point anyway. No purchase required, but a good effort from Collins nonetheless.
Squirrel Nut Zippers "The Best of Squirrel Nut Zippers (as Chronicled by Shorty Brown)"
What can I say about Squirrel Nut Zippers that I haven't before? I think they are wonderful: talented, virtuosic, swinging, they blend very well together, have such a great energy, and I think listening to them will make you happy and want to shuffle in your seat or get up and move. "Memphis Exorcism" is an excellent instrumental showcase, and I am also happy to have album versions of favorites from the live album like "Prince Nez," "Good Enough For Granddad," and "Hell." A great best-of collection for the newcomer to SNZ. Listen up fans of swing, swing revival, gypsy punk, contemporary Latin, cabaret, and all around foot-tapping good times.
Del Amitri "Twisted"
I had never heard of this band until I was watching Scrubs and there was this great scene that fit perfectly with the music. I looked up the song and it was "Tell Her This" by Del Amitri. It has stuck with me as an incredible song and now I'm glad I got to hear more by them. Pretty straight ahead 90's pop rock, some of it is harder/heavier than other more radio-oriented songs. The most poppy tune is "Roll to Me," the ubiquitous 90's radio song that I along with many others it seems, had for years thought the lyric went: "the right time, the wrong me" when in fact it's "roll to me." Hmm, I like the other way better. The less well known tracks on this album are worth a listen too. Pretty easy listening. Kind of sounds like the Wallflowers at times. Good for fans of them, Tom Petty, less progressive Wilco, and other 90's rock.Norah Jones "The Fall"
Interesting record that can mostly be characterized as singer/songwriter, non-dance hall-oriented pop, but it has some other elements blended in as well, like electronic and country. There is an interesting use of various production methods and guitar effects to give a diverse amount of backdrops to support Jones' voice through the album. More often than not, the backdrop is minimalist in nature, spread out stereophonically. This is a big contrast to bands like Coldplay, The Fray, etc. whose sound is characterized by stereo saturation and thick textures. The focus seems to be more on melody, simple accompaniment, and leaving more silence, creating a more intimate feeling. Somehow though at the end of it all, I am always underwhelmed by Norah Jones' music. But, worth a listen.Incubus "S.C.I.E.N.C.E."
Not the same Incubus as Morning View or A Crow Left of the Murder. This 1997 release (the band's second) immediately shows heavy Red Hot Chili Peppers influence, with funky bass lines, wah-wahs, thickly distorted guitars, and the vocal delivery is often spot on for Kiedis. The breakdown section of the first track "Redefine" features treble-tweaked, machine gun fast slab bass lines, a clear nod to Primus, and the use of turntables and rap hype would surely go on to inspire "rap metal" groups like Linkin Park, etc. Definitely thick, minor and opaque in tone (in contrast to Morning View's translucence), but still well crafted, enjoyable and full of energy. Some of the more bizarre sections with random percussion, noise outbursts, and suddenly different meter will delight Mr. Bungle fans. Straddling the funk, metal, and hip hop genres, S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is a good addition to any Incubus collection and the library of fans of any of those genres.